Exploring the world of small things: a review of Gathering Moss

Part of the fascination of working with mosses is the chance to see if and when the ecological rules of the large transcend the boundaries of scale and still illuminate the behavior of the smallest beings. It is a search for order, a desire for a glimpse of the threads that hold the world together.

— Robin Wall Kimmerer

In Gathering Moss, Robin Wall Kimmerer gives us a detailed account of the lives of mosses and their interactions with the world. She weaves together stories from her life and her myriad experiences with bryology, and approaches these from both a Western scientific perspective and Native American views on the world. It’s an interesting exercise. Understanding mosses requires an understanding of the unique set of challenges for life at extremely small scales. But there is also a need to understand the larger pattern of how the aggregation of these tiny beings affects the ecosystem at large. Reading this book, I was repeatedly surprised that mosses play such an important role in the world even though they usually disappear, almost unseen, into the background.

This is a deep dive into the world of small things that’s a fun and educating read for anyone who’s fascinated by the natural world.

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